Now boasting a population of more than 800 species, the Toledo Zoo in Toledo, Ohio, would not be the cozy home to its more than 9,000 animals if it weren’t for one very special little marmot. The zoo’s first inhabitant was an overgrown woodchuck donated in 1900 to the city of Toledo’s Park Board by local furniture dealer Carl Hillebrand after he heard rumors of the city’s wanting to start a zoo. The groundbreaking creature marked the beginning of the Toledo Zoo’s century-long history of creating a space of wonder and excitement for guests to enjoy.
But the Toledo Zoo is more than just a haven for animals; it’s also home to some of the region’s best, and most memorable, meeting spaces. With a professional chef on staff and a dozen venues from which to choose for hosting any range of events, from weddings and birthday parties to corporate events and reunion picnics, the zoo offers space to commune with flora and fauna while enjoying the community of your meeting group.
“I think the fact that everyone has a special childhood or current memory of the zoo makes each event that much more special because the location itself makes people feel good,” said Colleen Tankoos, group sales manager for the Toledo Zoo. “I believe the community support and pride of our zoo is what makes it so very unique; that and the fact that large and small events are part of the zoo’s regular activities.”
Each venue at the Toledo Zoo is different, varying in size, atmosphere and general ambiance, and each is located near exhibits of exotic animals, making meetings in this space a wild experience.
Before and after meetings and events, guests have a full zoo to explore where they can see everything from their favorite species (like monkeys and zebras) to animals they’ve never before encountered (such as naked mole rats and Polar bears). Beyond the regular zoo attractions that are open to all park guests, the event staff can arrange special animal demonstrations in which guests can watch live feedings and hunting demos. The zoo staff specializes in creating unique experiences for every meeting group that comes through the gates, but the two most requested experiences still remain the private behind-the-scenes tours and private animal encounters with a local host.
With names for the meeting spaces ranging from the Nairobi Pavilion and Penguin Beach to the Arctic Encounter and African Lodge, it’s not hard to see why each venue within the Toledo Zoo offers an entirely different experience for guests. The zoo features intimate boardrooms, theaterstyle auditoriums, and large and small ballrooms to accommodate any formal or casual function. Smaller venues at the zoo include the Treetops conference room (22 people), the Arctic Encounter (50), Penguin Beach (20), and the new Aquarium (70). Larger venues include the Lodge (150), Museum of Science (140), Indoor Theater (400), Nairobi Pavilion (500 banquet style, 1,000 picnic) and the Broadway Pavilion (500).
Just because your event is held at the zoo doesn’t mean you have to eat like an animal. The Toledo Zoo has a full-time executive chef who creates decadent dishes, from zesty jalapeno poppers at picnics to jumbo bay scallops with orange mint marmalade for seated dinners. The catering team is skilled at handling events like business meetings, where freshly prepared sandwiches and salads are served, and black-tie events, with hors d’oeuvres and handmixed cocktails. The zoo even has the Timberline Bakery onsite to whip up custom-ordered baked goods for dessert.
The aquarium at the Toledo Zoo first opened in 1939. More than 75 years since those first freshwater fish swam through the tanks and after more than two years of substantial renovations, the zoo is set to unveil the new aquarium on March 27. The new facility will feature 210,000 gallons of water throughout, with new exhibits and more interactive opportunities for visitors to get up close with the marine life. Some of the main highlights will be the Tropical Pacific tank (the largest tank in the zoo’s history) and the shockingly interactive electric eel exhibit.
Location: Toledo, Ohio
Type of Venue: Off-site, zoo
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